Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Beyond Election Day!!!!!
One of the great transformations that will take place with an Obama presidency is that we will have a government based upon integrity and intelligence as opposed to the lies and distortions of right wing ideologues. There’s no reason that the head of FEMA will not be any incompetent “Brownies” padding their bank accounts based upon some ideological loyalty. Nor will there be Secretaries of Education whose reputations are based upon failed policies disguised as new hopes. An Obama administration will require competence.
The challenges, economic and otherwise, make someone who is bright, who has integrity, and who is committed to social justice, a necessity at this critical juncture in America’s history. With Barack as the man in charge, our “hopes” for the “change we need” can only be realized by a government is that “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In his “Beyond Election Day,.” Bob Herbert writes about an aspect why this election is important. RGN
November 4, 2008
Beyond Election Day
By BOB HERBERT
Conservative commentators had a lot of fun mocking Barack Obama’s use of the phrase, “the fierce urgency of now.”
Noting that it had originated with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Obama made it a cornerstone of his early campaign speeches.
Conservatives kicked the phrase around like a soccer ball. “The fierce urgency of now,” they would say, giggling. What does it mean?
Well, if your house is on fire and your family is still inside, that’s an example of the fierce urgency of now.
Something like that is the case in the United States right now as Americans go to the polls in what is probably the most important presidential election since World War II. A mind-boggling series of crises is threatening not just the short-term future but the very viability of the nation.
The economy is sinking into quicksand. The financial sector, guardian of the nation’s wealth, is leaning on the crutch of a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout. The giant auto companies — for decades the high-powered, gas-guzzling, exhaust-spewing pride of American industry — are on life support.
As the holiday shopping season approaches, the nation is hemorrhaging jobs, the value of the family home has plunged, retirement plans are shrinking like ice cubes on a hot stove and economists are telling us the recession has only just begun.
It’s in that atmosphere that voters today will be choosing between the crisis-management skills of Senator Obama, who has enlisted Joe Biden as aide-de-camp, and those of Senator John McCain, who is riding to the rescue with Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber in tow.
As important as this choice has become, the election is just a small first step. What Americans really have to decide is what kind of country they want.
Right now the United States is a country in which wealth is funneled, absurdly, from the bottom to the top. The richest 1 percent of Americans now holds close to 40 percent of all the wealth in the nation and maintains an iron grip on the levers of government power.
This is not only unfair, but self-defeating. The U.S. cannot thrive with its fabulous wealth concentrated at the top and the middle class on its knees. (No one even bothers to talk about the poor anymore.) How to correct this imbalance is one of the biggest questions facing the country.
The U.S. is also a country in which blissful ignorance is celebrated, and intellectual excellence (the key to 21st century advancement) is not just given short shrift, but is ridiculed. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are cultural icons. The average American watches television a mind-numbing 4 1/2 hours a day.
At the same time, our public school system is plagued with some of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world. Math and science? Forget about it. Too tough for these TV watchers, or too boring, or whatever.
“When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad,” said Bill Gates, “I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”
The point here is that as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the United States is in deep, deep trouble. Yet instead of looking for creative, 21st-century solutions to these enormous problems, too many of our so-called leaders are behaving like clowns, or worse — spouting garbage in the public sphere that hearkens back to the 1940s and ’50s.
Thoughtful, well-educated men and women are denounced as elites, and thus the enemies of ordinary Americans. Attempts to restore a semblance of fiscal sanity to a government that has been looted with an efficiency that would have been envied by the mob, are derided as subversive — the work of socialists, Marxists, Communists.
In North Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole, a conservative Republican, is in a tough fight for re-election against a Democratic state senator, Kay Hagan. So Ms. Dole ran a television ad that showed a close-up of Ms. Hagan’s face while the voice of a different woman asserts, “There is no God!”
Americans have to decide if they want a country that tolerates this kind of debased, backward behavior. Or if they want a country that aspires to true greatness — a country that stands for more than the mere rhetoric of equality, freedom, opportunity and justice.
That decision will require more than casting a vote in one presidential election. It will require a great deal of reflective thought and hard work by a committed citizenry. The great promise of America hinges on a government that works, openly and honestly, for the broad interests of the American people, as opposed to the narrow benefit of the favored, wealthy few.
By all means, vote today. But that is just the first step toward meaningful change.